Rivera's research and teaching interests are in the field of comparative politics with particular emphases on democratization, elite political culture, the transformation of elites in post-communist settings and the diffusion of ideas.
Her articles have appeared in Perspectives on Politics, Political Studies, Party Politics, Post-Soviet Affairs, PS: Political Science and Politics, and Europe-Asia Studies, as well as in edited collections. She has also published pedagogical articles on the use of active learning strategies in the classroom.
Her research to date has been supported by the Social Science Research Council and the U.S. Department of Education. In 2012-13 she was a Fulbright U.S. Scholar to the Russian Federation.